05 Jul, 2021
9 minutes

A Glossary of Types of Fireworks

If you’re planning a firework display you no doubt have an idea of what you want it to look like. But searching for ‘the big ones that go up and then bang’, or ‘the shiny ones that my neighbour had on New Year’s Eve last year’ probably isn’t going to narrow down your search for the exact fireworks you have your mind set on.

It’s hard to put into words the way you imagine your firework display to look. Here’s our Chorlton Fireworks glossary to help you find exactly what you need to get the effects you want.

UK Firework Categories

Firework laws age-restrict fireworks products because they can pose a threat to those who use them so they need to be handled with care. In the UK, the government determines where and by who fireworks can be used by categorising them on their size, impact, and noise levels. All fireworks fall into these four categories:

  • Category 1: Indoor fireworks (e.g. indoor sparkles and ice fountains)
  • Category 2: Garden fireworks – viewable from a minimum of 8 metres away
  • Category 3: Display fireworks – viewable from a minimum of 25 metres away
  • Category 4: Display fireworks – only available to professionals, not the general public

Find out more about fireworks terminology.

Different Types of Fireworks: A Glossary

Refer to this glossary to link up the names of fireworks with their visual effects. You’ll have no problem finding what you’re looking for whether it’s a certain type of firework or a specific firework effect you’re after.


The rocket is the most well-known firework and, usually, the stereotypical firework icon people think of when they imagine a firework. A rocket consists of one shot that launches a shell high into the air which then explodes in a wide arc of multiple flares of light, colour, shimmers, and sparkles that trail slowly downwards. Rockets come in all different shapes, colours, and sizes.

Pictured: Dark Angel

Smoke Grenade

Then activated a smoke grenade emits thick plumes of coloured smoke for several seconds or around a minute. Smoke grenades are excellent for daytime celebrations as they require light to be seen and are good for setting the atmosphere for a show, photoshoot, display, or party. Smoke grenades come as products you can put on the ground to create a colourful scene, or as handheld products.

Pictured: Purple Smoke Grenade


A fountain produces a consistent, think plume of brilliant light and sparkles. A fountain could have a consistent display of colour and light, or show different colours, patterns and movements throughout the course of its activity. This is quite a low-noise firework by nature and stays close to the ground, making it convenient for smaller gardens or parties where noise is an issue. A fountain is a very graceful, elegant firework and comes in many different colours.

Pictured: Oceans of Light

Roman Candle

A roman candle is a traditional type of firework that takes the form of a long tube. When ignited, a roman candle emits a series of stars that travel high into the sky and burst into a certain colour. Roman candles don’t explode the same way that rockets do. Their climax is gentler, quieter, and spans a smaller diameter. Roman Candles have a more vertical dimension than a rocket and tend to look more sophisticated and elegant.

Pictured: Brazilliant Candle

Catherine Wheel

A Catherine Wheel is another traditional firework that has been around for many years. A Catherine Wheel involves a spiral tube or angled rocket affixed to a disc with a pin through the centre. The force of the firework when ignited makes it spin, producing a circular display of light and sparks. A Catherine Wheel is a good, low noise option that doesn’t require a lot of space if you have a small garden.

Pictured: Super Spinner

Barrage or Cake

Similar to the single ignition barrage, a barrage, sometimes also called a cake is a cube of multiple tubes each containing a firework. Once lit, each tube will launch its firework which will explode in the sky like a rocket. Barrages or cakes can feature a range of different fireworks or multiples of the same one.

Pictured: Psycho Spirit


A sparkler is probably one of the smallest fireworks available and is handheld. When lit, a sparkler will emit a constant burst of light and sparkles and can be held still or moved through the air to create light patterns. A sparkler will last for a few seconds and can even be used indoors, just check the product is definitely an indoor sparkler first.

Pictured: Mini Cocktail Sparklers Pack Of 10

Ice Fountain

An ice fountain is an indoor firework similar to a sparkler. Usually added to the top of a cake or champagne bottle, an ice fountain emits a constant plume of white light and sparkles, similar in shape and motion to an outdoor fountain firework.

Pictured: Ice Fountains 80 Pack


A mine is a single burst firework meaning that multiple shots are fired all at once. When ignited, a mine will produce a fan of light as shots are fired in an arc into the sky. Each shot will explode in light and colour at height in the sky creating a display that is mainly vertical but has some width too. Mines can consist of one colour alone or include shots of different colours.

Pictured: Shockwave Mine

Confetti Cannon

A confetti cannon emits a burst of confetti through a long handheld tube. Confetti cannons are often used at gender reveal parties to shower guests in either pink or blue confetti in a matter of seconds. Confetti cannons are also good for grand openings, weddings, club nights, and sports events, with confetti in any colour available.

Pictured: Multi-Coloured Confetti Cannon

Strobe or Flare

A flare is a very quiet, low-to-the-ground firework that emits a plume of constant or flashing light and smoke. Flares can be positioned on the ground, but you can also buy handheld flares with are great for use in performances or in gender reveals.

Pictured: Red Blinker/Strobe

Compound Firework

A compound firework is similar to a single ignition barrage but offers more versatility. It consists of multiple fireworks attached to a single board. When lit, each firework will launch in succession. Compound fireworks give you the freedom to set off a selection of different fireworks and in a complete display while only lighting the ignition once.

Pictured: Game Changer

Gender Reveal Firework

A gender reveal firework can be any firework that consists of only pink or only blue light, sparkles, confetti, or smoke. At Chorlton Fireworks we stock firework sets comprising only pink or only blue fireworks to make designing a display easy.

Pictured: Pink Princess

Low Noise Firework

You might need to make sure your fireworks are on the quieter side if you live in a certain area, or own a pet. Low noise fireworks are designed specifically to reduce the impact the ‘whoosh’ and ‘bang’ a firework has on noise levels. They will typically feature a lower, more muffled noise when the shells explode in the sky.

Listen to a low noise firework on our YouTube channel.

Single Ignition Barrage

A single ignition barrage consists of multiple tubes fixed together which need only to be lit once. Then the fireworks are launched one by one. These can consist of only a few shots but can contain hundreds and more commonly do. The fireworks produced will shoot up high into the sky and burst in various colours with the signature circular explosion of light. Usually, single ignition barrages contain a range of different colours and effects and can act as a firework display in one.

Pictured: 200 Shot Firework Barrage

Before setting off any fireworks, it's important to read up on firework safety so you can enjoy your fireworks to the fullest without putting anyone in harm's way.

It is illegal for under 18s to purchase or Attempt to purchase fireworks
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